Male ambulance driver talking on the radio

How to Become An Ambulance Driver

What it takes to drive an ambulance and how it’s not what it used to be.

“It is a great honor to save a life. You save many.”

— Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone

Male ambulance driver talking on the radio

Have you ever thought about how the term “ambulance driver” is perceived?

Today’s ambulance drivers carry far more responsibility and handle more tasks than in the past. In most cities, “ambulance driver” is no longer a standalone profession. In fact, for most EMTs and paramedics, driving an ambulance is merely an extension of their duties and responsibilities.

Since these dedicated people do so much for their communities, the term “ambulance driver” does a disservice by selling it short of the actual responsibilities and rewards that come along with it.

This article aims to highlight the role of an ambulance driver and the credentials required to fulfill this obligation.

What Does an Ambulance Driver Do?

Simply put, the primary responsibility of the “ambulance driver” is, just as it sounds, to drive the ambulance, transporting sick, injured, or non-ambulatory patients to the nearest hospital or medical facility.

Other general responsibilities include helping lift patients into and out of the ambulance and administering first aid. Between transporting patients, ambulance drivers often assist with several other duties at their medical facility. These may include fueling, maintaining, and cleaning the ambulance and keeping it stocked with all the necessary medical supplies.

The role of an ambulance driver is challenging and has played a vital part in saving countless lives. Over the years, however, the role of the ambulance driver has expanded to include much more than just driving. Here are some of the other duties that can take an ambulance driver may perform:

  • Accompanying and assisting emergency medical technicians on calls.
  • Placing patients on stretchers and loading stretchers into ambulances.
  • Administering first aid such as bandaging, splinting, and oxygen.
  • Restraining or shackling violent patients.
  • Removing and replacing soiled linens and equipment to maintain sanitary conditions.
  • Replacing supplies and disposable items.
  • Reporting facts concerning accidents or emergencies to hospital staff or law enforcement officials.

The Evolution of Ambulance Drivers to EMTs

With the development of emergency medical services (EMS), out-of-hospital treatments (like CPR and defibrillation), and new pharmaceuticals, the tasks involved in ambulances continue to grow dramatically.

Today’s ambulances are more like mini emergency rooms on wheels, equipped with a battery of high-tech tools and life-saving supplies. Meanwhile, today’s EMS providers are licensed healthcare practitioners who can respond to various medical situations and provide advanced assessment and care on-site. As a result, the number of ambulance drivers who only drive ambulances is small, about 5 percent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 11,710 ambulance drivers in the U.S. who are not also EMTs or paramedics. At the same time, there are over 261,000 EMTs and paramedics, and most of them can and do drive ambulances (BLS).

Some places still employ drivers with no medical qualifications (or with only basic first aid training) to drive the ambulance. However, most “ambulance drivers” today are trained EMTs or paramedics. Because of the multiple responsibilities, many EMTs and paramedics take exception to being called “ambulance drivers” because they do so much more.

Close up of medical workers in a conference room

Is Medical Training Required to Become an Ambulance Driver?

Even though ambulance drivers play an increasing role in delivering first-response healthcare, some states do not require medical training to drive an ambulance legally. This goes back to when ambulance drivers did nothing but drive ambulances.

However, regardless of the lax state requirements, most EMS organizations only hire certified EMT professionals to drive ambulances. In most EMS organizations, an EMT drives the ambulance as part of the expanded responsibilities we’ve discussed previously.

How to Get Hired as an Ambulance Driver

Though requirements vary by state and employer, today’s ambulance drivers are typically educated at least to the basic EMT level. And all states require EMTs and paramedics to complete a formal EMT training program.

Depending on the program, basic EMT training may include up to 120 hours of classroom education and several days of clinical or field training. EMTs must also pass a written and practical exam from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

(Go here for our article on learning how to become an EMT).

Even employers who do not require their ambulance drivers to be EMTs often still require ambulance drivers to have at least cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support (BLS) certification. These 1- or 2-day courses are available from the American Red Cross, colleges, and other community resources across the country.

Some employers provide specific on-the-job training, but many also require an ambulance safe driving course and a specialized ambulance driver certificate, such as an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC). Developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this course combines classroom and practical experience. It covers safe driving, navigation and GPS, and legal requirements for ambulance drivers. The course usually requires that the student have one year of emergency vehicle driving experience before qualifying for the certificate.

State Requirements for Ambulance Drivers

An ambulance driver must be able to navigate a 14,000+ pound emergency vehicle through busy streets at high speeds in all conditions while transporting sick and injured patients who may be receiving treatment while in route. Sound simple? Not so much.

This role can require specialized training, such as an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC), though less than half of states require a basic EVOC for this crucial role in public safety. This, even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says an estimated 6,500 accidents involving ambulances occur annually. So, while your state may not require it, many employers will.

Here are a list of states and their EVOC requirements:

State  EVOC Required? State  EVOC Required?
Alabama Yes Montana No
Alaska No Nebraska Yes
Arizona No Nevada No
Arkansas No New Hampshire No
California No New Jersey No
Colorado No New Mexico Yes
Connecticut Yes New York No
Delaware Yes North Carolina No
District of Columbia Yes North Dakota No
Florida Yes Ohio No
Georgia No Oklahoma Yes
Hawaii Yes Oregon Yes
Idaho No Pennsylvania Yes
Illinois No Rhode Island No
Indiana No South Carolina No
Iowa Yes South Dakota No
Kansas No Tennessee No
Kentucky Yes Texas No
Louisiana No Utah No
Maine No Vermont No
Maryland No Virginia Yes
Massachusetts No Washington No
Michigan No West Virginia Yes
Minnesota Yes Wisconsin No
Mississippi Yes Wyoming Yes
Missouri Yes

Source:  Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Medical professional typing on a laptop

How Much Are Ambulance Drivers Paid?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary* for ambulance drivers in 2021 was $31,000, and the top 10% earned over $46,000.

On the other hand, the average salary* for EMTs and paramedics was $36,000, and the top 10% earned over $47,000 (BLS). Furthermore, the demand for EMTs is expected to grow by 11% over the next few years (BLS).

Top Paying Industries for Ambulance Drivers

Industry Average Hourly Wage Annual Salary
Physicians’ offices $ 21.99 $ 45,740
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals $ 18.40 $ 38,280
Medical and surgical hospitals $ 16.17 $ 33,630
Home health care services $ 15.60 $ 32,440
Local government $ 15.36 $ 31,940

Top Paying States for Ambulance Drivers

Below are the highest-paying states for ambulance drivers:

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Rhode Island $20.86 $43,400
Georgia $18.92 $39,350
New Hampshire $18.57 $38,620
Maryland $18.06 $37,570
Tennessee $17.74 $36,910

Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Paying Cities for Ambulance Drivers

Here is a list of top paying cities for ambulance drivers, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

City Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Providence, RI $20.48 $42,590
Atlanta, GA $19.89 $41,380
San Francisco, CA $19.76 $41,090
Indianapolis, IN $18.90 $39,310
Charlotte, NC $18.48 $38,430
New York, NY $18.30 $38,060
Baltimore, MD $18.08 $37,610
Los Angeles, CA $17.86 $37,160
Boston, MA $17.48 $36,350
Washington DC $17.27 $35,920

EMS professionals holding equipment

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To prepare you to succeed as an Emergency Medical Technician, Unitek EMT offers an accelerated 14-Day EMT Boot Camp. The program taught by seasoned EMS professionals includes hands-on exercises, active learning, and clinical simulations.

The accelerated Boot Camp format can prepare you for the NREMT in less time than many other training programs. To learn more, submit a contact request form, and a Unitek EMT representative will reach out with more information.

8 replies
  1. Mapula Shokane
    Mapula Shokane says:

    Am mapula Irene shokane am 25 yrs old,am from polokwane.I have only grade 12 with higher certificate,am forlling in love with working with people I really do want to work with you I will so very happy in u call me my number 0606180704

  2. An
    An says:

    I took the course in California before they moved to Arizona. It was the most interesting & exciting course. It was so worth it!! If you don’t have medical experience it can be challenging. I suggest you read & really understand the text book beforehand.

  3. Mohammadnasir Kohistani
    Mohammadnasir Kohistani says:

    I love to join drive team I from Afghanistan moved to USA nev 2019 I worked with USA gov more 5 year at Afghanistan i don’t know can join or no

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